Bursitis is inflammation of bursa sacs (bursae), which are fluid-filled sacs next to the tendons in large joints like shoulders, elbows, knees and hips.

Bursae cushion the bones, tendons and muscles in joints, and they reduce friction by providing a gliding surface. Sometimes bursitis goes away on its own over time, but we can provide treatment to help you heal quickly.

When does bursitis happen?

Bursitis occurs when bursae become inflamed and flare up due to injury or overuse from repetitive motion. Other medical conditions can also cause bursitis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, tendonitis, diabetes, and thyroid disease.

Bursitis is usually temporary, but it is a painful condition that can also cause limited motion, and swelling and redness if the inflamed bursa is close to the surface of the skin. Serious cases can cause disabling joint pain, sudden inability to move a joint, excessive swelling, redness, bruising or a rash in the affected area, and a fever.

Don't wait to get a proper diagnosis

The symptoms of bursitis may look like other health problems, so you should see a UCHealth provider right away for a proper diagnosis, medical advice and a personalized treatment plan.

Bursitis may or may not go away on its own, but it can take weeks to heal without treatment. We can help you heal quickly—you don’t need to let the joint pain and discomfort hold you back from the activities you love.

Bursitis can happen in any bursa sac in the body, and each type has specific triggers.

The common types of bursitis include:

  • Anterior Achilles tendon bursitis (also called Albert disease or retromalleolar bursitis). Caused by things like injury, disease or shoes with rigid back support. This can lead to inflammation of the bursa located where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel.
  • Posterior Achilles tendon bursitis. Occurs in the bursa located between the skin of the heel and the Achilles tendon. It is triggered by walking that presses the soft heel tissue into the hard back support of a shoe like high heels or pumps, and can cause the bone to enlarge at the back of the heel, called a Haglund deformity.
  • Hip bursitis, or trochanteric bursitis. Often caused by injury, overuse, arthritis, or surgery. This type of bursitis is more common in women and middle-aged and older adults, and presents on the side of the hip.
  • Elbow bursitis. Caused by the inflammation of the bursa located between the skin and bones of the elbow. Elbow bursitis can be caused by injury or constant pressure on the elbow.
  • Knee bursitis (also called goosefoot bursitis or Pes Anserine bursitis). The Pes Anserine bursa is located between the shin bone and the three tendons of the hamstring muscles, on the inside of the knee. This type of bursitis may be caused by not stretching before exercise, tight hamstring muscles, being overweight, arthritis, or out-turning of the knee or lower leg.
  • Kneecap bursitis, or prepatellar bursitis. Common in people who are on their knees a lot, such as carpet layers and plumbers.
  • Septic bursitis. Occurs when a bursa is somehow punctured and bacteria enters it.

Conservative measures such as rest, ice and pain relievers may work relieve your discomfort. If they don’t work, your treatment plan might include:

  • Assistive device. A walking cane or other device will help relieve pressure on the affected area.
  • Corticosteroid drug injection into the bursa. Can quickly relieve pain and inflammation in your shoulder or hip. In many cases, just one injection is needed.
  • Medication. Your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic.
  • Physical therapy. Strengthens the muscles in the affected area to ease pain and prevent recurrence.
  • Surgery. Used when an inflamed bursa must be surgically drained; removing the affected bursa is rarely necessary.

We’re ready to help you treat a bursitis flare up and take any preventative steps that are right for your case.

Bursitis doesn’t have to stand in the way of you performing your best at work or play any more.

Woman climbing rock face

Orthoinfo: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Hip Bursitis (https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/hip-bursitis/)

Arthritis Foundation. Bursitis (https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/bursitis)

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): National Library of Medicine. Bursitis (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513340/)